Bitcoin slides by over $1,000 in less than 48 hours

A bitcoin (virtual currency) coin placed on Dollar banknotes is seen in this illustration picture, November 6, 2017. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

By Jemima Kelly

LONDON (Reuters) – Bitcoin dropped below $7,000 on Friday to trade more than $1,000 down from an all-time high hit on Wednesday, as some traders dumped it for a clone called Bitcoin Cash, sending its value up around a third.

Bitcoin has been on a tear in recent months, with a vertiginous sevenfold increase in value since the start of the year that has led to many warnings the bitcoin market – now worth well over $100 billion – has become a bubble that is about to burst.

It reached a record high of $7,888 around 1800 GMT on Wednesday after a software upgrade planned for next week that could have split the cryptocurrency in a so-called “fork” was suspended.

But it has quickly retreated from that peak, falling to as low as $6,718 around 1330 GMT on Friday. It later recovered a touch to trade around $6,880 by 1645 GMT, but that was still down almost 4 percent on the day.

“Bitcoin is all ups and downs,” said Thomas Bertani, chief executive of Eidoo, a cryptocurrency wallet provider that recently became the first startup in the space to take out a full-page advert in the Wall Street Journal newspaper.

“The market realized that the price rise was an over-reaching, so people started selling… (and) there are many long and short positions that amplify price movements.”

As bitcoin tumbled, Bitcoin Cash, which was generated from another software split on Aug.1, surged, trading up as much as 35 percent on the day to around $850, according to industry website Coinmarketcap.

Bitcoin Cash’s transactions are processed in so-called “blocks” that are larger in capacity than bitcoin’s, so can therefore in theory allow for more transactions to be processed at any given time, making transaction fees much cheaper.

The fork that had been planned for next week, known as “SegWit2x”, had also intended to increase the capacity of the blocks, and could thus have reduced fees for bitcoin transactions.

Any investors, therefore, that see bitcoin more as a currency than a store of value might be choosing to buy into Bitcoin Cash now that Segwit2x had been scrapped, Bertani said.

“People who had been supporting Segwit2x could as an alternative move to Bitcoin Cash,” he said.

“There are good reasons to believe that Bitcoin Cash could be an alternative for people who believe that low fees on bitcoin transactions are needed today.”

(Reporting by Jemima Kelly, editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

Walmart joins forces with Google on voice-activated shopping

FILE- In this combo of file photos shows, a Google sign at a store on Aug. 7, 2017, in Hialeah, Fla., bottom, and a Walmart sign on June 1, 2017, in Hialeah Gardens, Fla. Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, said Wednesday, Aug. 23, that it’s working with Google to offer hundreds of thousands of items from laundry detergent to Legos for voice shopping through Google Assistant. The capability will be available in late September. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz, File)

NEW YORK (AP) — Walmart is diving into voice-activated shopping. But unlike online leader Amazon, it’s not doing it alone.

The world’s largest retailer said Wednesday it’s working with Google to offer hundreds of thousands of items from laundry detergent to Legos for voice shopping through Google Assistant. The capability will be available in late September.

It’s Google’s biggest retail partnership — and the most personalized shopping experience it offers — as it tries to broaden the reach of its voice-activated assistant Home speaker. And it underscores Walmart’s drive to compete in an area dominated by Amazon’s Alexa-powered Echo device.

“Voice shopping is becoming a more important part of everyday shopping behavior,” said Marc Lore, CEO of Walmart’s U.S. e-commerce business.

The voice-activated devices are becoming more mainstream as they become more accessible. Even Apple has one coming out this year. Walmart has said Google’s investment in natural language processing and artificial intelligence will help make voice-activated shopping more popular.

And Lore said the personalization of the partnership means people can shout out generic items like milk, bread and cheese, and Google Assistant will know exactly the brands and the size that the user wants.

Google introduced shopping to Home in February, letting people use voice to order essentials from more than 40 retailers like Target and Costco under its Google Express program. But that was far behind the Echo, available since late 2014.

Walmart, which has more stores than any other retailer and the largest share of the U.S. grocery market, is also working hard to close the gulf online between itself and Amazon.

It has overhauled its shipping strategy and is expanding store-curb pickup for groceries ordered online. But it’s also had to look beyond itself and form partnerships. Walmart announced Monday that it’s expanding its grocery delivery service with ride-hailing service Uber, and it’s been testing same-day delivery service with Deliv at Sam’s Club in Miami.

Amazon generally has been building its network of services on its own, using its $99-a-year Prime membership with same-day and even one-hour shipping options to develop loyalty.

It’s also been drawing in customers with its Alexa devices. Amazon doesn’t give sales figures for Echo, but Consumer Intelligence Research Partners estimated that it’s sold more than 10 million Echo devices in the U.S. since late 2014. That includes the core $179 Echo as well as the less expensive and smaller Echo Dot and the portable Amazon Tap.

To be more competitive with Amazon, Google Express is scrapping the $95-a-year membership starting Wednesday, allowing shoppers to get free delivery within one to three days on orders as long as the purchase is above each store’s minimum.

Walmart is integrating its Easy Reorder feature — which has data on both store and online purchases — into Google Express. Shoppers who want to reorder their favorites have to link their Walmart account to Google Express.

With other Google Express retailers, personalization takes time as the assistant learns shoppers’ preferences, says Brian Elliott, general manager of Google Express. So the quick personalization with Walmart should make voice-activated shopping more attractive, he says.

While one of Walmart’s biggest advantages over Amazon is its massive number of stores, Amazon’s nearly $14 billion offer for Whole Foods could shake up the landscape. Whole Foods shareholders voted Wednesday to approve the Amazon bid.

Walmart says it will be tapping its 4,700 U.S. stores and its fulfillment network next year to offer more kinds of customer experiences using voice shopping. For example, shoppers can tell Google Assistant they want to pick up an order in a store. Lore said the company wants to make voice shopping as easy as possible, and “that’s why it makes sense for us to team up with Google.”

Internet analyst Sucharita Mulpuru-Kodali praised the partnership, but believes voice-ordering is still in its nascent stages and not likely to drive a lot of business in the short term.

“I like that Walmart and Google are partnering,” she said. “That is the sort of complementary relationship that Walmart needs to have any hope in winning in online retail.” She believes relatively few people have even tried voice ordering for e-commerce, though, and beyond being early it’s “quite an imperfect experience at that.”

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California seeks to boost electric-car rebate program

This April 25, 2016, photo shows an electric Fiat plugged into a charging station in a parking lot in Los Angeles. California could spend up to $3 billion under a bill that would widely expand its consumer rebate program for zero-emission vehicles. The Legislature is pushing forward a bill that could lift rebates from $2,500 to $10,000 or more for a compact electric car. Current rebates have done little to boost sales. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)

Aug 28, 2017 1:23PM (GMT-07:00)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California would spend up to $3 billion under a bill to widely expand its fledgling consumer rebate program for zero-emission vehicles.

The state has already spent nearly $450 million in subsidies, but the Los Angeles Times reported (http://lat.ms/2xC52Ij ) that so far, the rebates haven’t boosted sales much. In 2016, of the just over 2 million cars sold in the state, only 75,000 were pure-electric and plug-in hybrid cars. To date, out of 26 million cars and light trucks registered in California, just 315,000 are electric or plug-in hybrids.

Now the Legislature is pushing forward a bill that would lift rebates from $2,500 to $10,000 or more for a compact electric car. That could, for example, make a Chevrolet Bolt EV electric car cost the same as a gasoline-driven Honda Civic.

Already approved by several Senate and Assembly committees, the bill will go to Gov. Jerry Brown for his approval or veto if the full Legislature approves it by the end of its current session on Sept. 15.

California aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 to a level 40 percent below what they were in 1990.

“If we want to hit our goals, we’re going to have to do something about transportation,” said Assemblyman Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, sponsor of Assembly Bill 1184.

Without a dramatic boost in subsidies, Ting said, the state risks falling short of Brown’s goal of 1.5 million zero-emission vehicles on California highways by 2025, and the California Air Resources Board’s goal of 4 million by 2030.

The bill is opposed by Republicans averse to taxpayer subsidies, the Times reported Saturday.

Outside observers and analysts raise eyebrows at the $3 billion budget line. Supporters say the money will come mainly from the state’s cap-and-trade auction revenue, although they are vague on details. Other legislators, including Senate leader Kevin de Leon, a Los Angeles Democrat, are putting in their own bids for cap-and-trade revenue that overlap with Ting’s.

“There are a lot of claims on that money,” said Severin Borenstein, an energy markets expert at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business.

Also left vague is the rebate amount to be applied to each vehicle, the newspaper said. The bill passes that decision to the air resources board. It directs the board to use state rebate money so the consumer needn’t pay more for an electric compact car than a similar gasoline-powered compact car.

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Information from: Los Angeles Times, http://www.latimes.com/